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Article: At Long Last! Listen To Your (Physical) SACDs Through an Outboard DAC


gmgraves

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58 minutes ago, firedog said:

Hi George-

AFAIR, all ESS chips convert DSD to PCM internally, they don't do one-bit conversion direct to analog. There are AKM chips that convert DSD directly to analog, without internal conversion as an intermediate step.

Maybe that's why you don't like the sound of the Oppo.

Could be. I was under the impression that as a 1-bit (delta-sigma) DAC that the ESS DACs would do a direct conversion of DSD.

George

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54 minutes ago, Daveyu said:

What i2s cable did you use for this article or just a high speed hdmi cable, is there a difference?

Just regular HDMI cables. It never even occurred to me to try boutique HDMI cables. You can if you wish, but that’s a road I don’t want to travel down.

George

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4 hours ago, Shib said:

The weak link here is the SACD transport being used. Besides the proprietary transport in the T&A SACD player, the best available transport I know of for SACD's is the Denon/Marantz unit. That is what DCS uses, I believe. This is important, because all laser disc transports will die, and spares of the current Denon/Marantz unit can still be purchased.  If someone (me) really wants to play their SACD's and have no need for an outboard DAC (to stream), then the Denon DCD-1600NE player is a steal. Much better sound than my old Sony SCD-1 (better than the 777), which died a similar death. (And, that is after replacing the laser once already. Did I need to buy 2 spares?) If the Denon 1600 is too low-fi, then Denon has higher end models, as does Marantz. Over and done with. Yes, I did buy spare parts for the Denon: an entire mech and laser assembly for $99 versus $250 for the Sony laser alone back in the day.

g033DCD1600-F.jpg

Absolutely! That’s what I found. The quality of the SACD playback is determined fairly, largely, by the quality of the transport. The Oppo 205 gives incredibly analog-like playback through the Denafrips Pontus. But the same SACDs played on the Sony’s transport, was pretty poor.

One experiment that I tried after I had submitted the above article, was to compare an SACD sampler of releases from Reference Recordings, with the Reference’s CD ROM of the same material through the same Pontus DAC. The material on the CD ROM, was in the form of a group of 24/192 WAV files. The results surprised me. The SACD outperformed the 24/192 WAV files in every way an audio presentation can be aurally compared! I hesitate to make odious comparisons, but certainly, in that case, the high sample rate LPCM was inferior to the DSD data from the SACD. Hardly scientific, but certainly an eye opener.

George

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5 hours ago, rando said:

@gmgraves

 

The Sony BDP-BX37 was unique SKU US/CA model, only available in a set of retail stores owned by a very rich Southern family 🤠, designed to hit what was at that time the lowest available price point for those desiring to try Blu-Ray.  For comparison on a supposed audiophile site you picked a highly amusing device.  Certainly amusing to me since I bought one used a year or two ago to do basically the same test(s).  Admittedly I didn't get CC to monetize purchase of a dongle and moved directly on to watching a 99¢ BD after determining this device was not an unrecognized jewel missing some key hardware mod/firmware adjustment.    

 

Absolved of provenance.  I think your article missed a key element by failing to mention the Burr-Brown (Texas Instruments) PCM1738 DAC chip in the Sony which ultimately provoked you to explore the OPPO's capabilities further.  Some mention of why one/both of us chose this exact model wouldn't have gone astray either.  Though probably beyond the scope of this article.  I'd also liked to have seen a few lines, or HINT HINT get the boss to clean up and promote his previous article, on mShuttle file transfer as a second reference point to depict how broadly it and the OPPO varied in function as transports.      

 

As always, you prove a very interesting character under any pen name.   

 

Edit: While digging up that pdf I came across this Audio Circle link which delves fairly deeply into the questions at hand.

I must be missing something because I fail to get your point. Irrespective of the provenance of the BDP-BX37, or its price point (bought mine used on E-bay incredibly cheap - less than 50 bucks), I included it to show that the HDMI to I2S converter will work with any Blu-ray player that will play SACDs and has an HDMI output and that the extent to which the playback quality through the Denefrips DACs is more than a little influenced by the quality of the transport used to read the SACD and parse the DSD from the disc.

I also fail to see the relevance of mentioning the Burr-Brown DAC which is, ostensibly, not even used when employing the BDP-BX37 as an SACD transport only.

George

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3 hours ago, soundboy said:

 However, Oppo 205's audio setting menu allows it to convert DSD directly to analog.  

Yes, that’s already been pointed out by someone else. But, thank you for reiterating it.
The fact remains, however that the ESS PRO’s decoding of the DSD file on an SACD is sonically inferior of the same SACD played via I2S through the Denefrips DAC.

George

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7 hours ago, austinpop said:

:)

 

The 2000s called. They want their SACD players back.

 

I realize this article is geared towards people who still like to play physical discs (how quaint!), but just in case this is being read by someone who didn't know that an easy ripping option existed... it does! We have all the expertise right here on AS:

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/28569-sacd-ripping-using-an-oppo-or-pioneer-yes-its-true/

 

 

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled DSDs yearning to breathe free...

 

:)

 

If you happen to have (or can find) an Oppo 103 or 105. Don’t try it with a 203 or a 205. It won’t work...

George

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1 hour ago, bobbmd said:

@gmgraves wow what a great article! It peaked my interest to go back and re-listen to some of my SACDs and DVD-As. I have a Yamaha c750 combo changer and IT still works but I now only have a 2 channel system(Legacy Audio Studio HD monitors) and have the Yamaha connected only via RCAs to my Schiit Ragnarok amp(no way to connect multiple speakers nor does it have any digital inputs). So I really don't know if I am truly getting a multi channel sound BUT on the changer SACD and MultiChannel signals lights up as well as Progressive and Downmix light up. Am listening to ABKCO's the Rolling Stones remastered series sampler that came with the changer (4-243-687-01)/ Time Out-Dave Brubeck(CS 65122)/ More Hot Rocks(made in Germany 18771-9626-2) and Dylan's Another Side...( CH 90327). They all sound awesome(as do my DVD-As especially American Beauty and Working Mans's Dead and just plain old Red Book CDs)-better as I have said elsewhere than anything I stream via TIDAL/Qobuz or through ROON or Audirvana +3.5. BUT who wants to dig discs out and have to put them away anymore as alluded to above ("how quaint..."- I would add "how quaint and a quaint PIA").

So @gmgravesFWIW/FYI I took the liberty  of looking up my changer(2005 version) for sale and it is for sale well under 100$ in some cases as a substitute for your dead SONY if you are interested.

Thanks again for the article and for making a mess of my listening area(LOL).

bobbmd

Thanks for offering, but I can’t imagine a stand-alone SACD player sounding as good as my Oppo UDP-205 through the Denafrips Pontus. I’ve been listening, almost non-stop, since just before Christmas to all of my . I can’t imagine the many of the best ones sound any thing but almost identical to the capture tapes from which said albums were originally derived. I have several streaming MQA versions on Tidal, of titles of which I also have SACDs. Through the Denafrips the SACDs always sound head and shoulders above the streaming MQA versions from Tidal (through the same Denafrips DAC).

George

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26 minutes ago, bobbmd said:

@gmgraves You are welcome and I have no way to compare what you are listening to and what I am using but I don't disagree that regardless of the device all physical hard discs sound better -I do notice though that all Stones recordings ie remastered/sacd/red book/vinyl going back to the '60s have always sounded harsh brittle to me on many songs but not on ballads blues songs ie sweet virginia/far away eyes etc what you/others think? At the same time listening to More Hot Rocks disc 2 (above) Mick's voice is clear/centered with Keith's bass coming from right speaker and Charlie's drums clear and distinct from the left( just as it was when I had 5.1/7.1 system) so I guess I am getting DSD/Multichannel with my new downsized system. Again thanks for getting me interested in my discs again and I am glad my original SACD/DVD-A changer still functions, BTW I also have a Harman/Kardon HDCD changer that still recognizes my DEAD HDCD discs and I play it through same amp as above via a Schiit YGGY GS(which probably cancels the HDCD DAC in the HK, eh)?

You are, unfortunately, barking up the wrong tree, here. I wouldn’t know the “Stones” from Adam. I certainly wouldn’t know them (or mostly any other rock or pop group, for that matter) when I heard them as I neither listen to nor generally appreciate this genre of music. Not knocking it, understand, it’s simply not my cup of tea. My musical tastes run mostly to classical, movie scores and jazz. Light listening will extend to folk, big band from the 30’s and 40’s, and from my misspent youth, the likes of Sinatra and even the Beach Boys!

George

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4 hours ago, Stradivarius3 said:

Very interesting article!

I am testing the association OPPO 205 (as SACD player) - BRYSTON BDA3 (DAC) via HDMI; it is fully functional and the sound is excellent (pre Audioreaserch REF5- 2 amp. REF210).

However I am the lucky owner of two EMMLABS CDSA e one SONY SCD777ES, having a huge collection go SACD; so my opinion is that the EMMLABS CDSA is still the best player for SACD.

Thanks!

 

The Oppo UDP-205 as a stand-alone SACD player is mediocre at best, but it does seem to be an exemplary transport for streaming DSD data to an outboard DAC. I’ve tried several Sony Blu-Ray players and an Oppo 105, and the UDP-205 sounds superior playing SACDs through the I2S converter to the Denafrips Pontus via HDMI with the Oppo 105 as a close second.

George

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5 hours ago, davide256 said:

I'm wondering if transport has the same effect on the bass with DSD as it does with PCM? The bass from my Linn Genki feed via coax to DAC far surpasses

the bass  octave reach from an Oppo 103 feed coax to same DAC for CD/HDCD material. Can't do an SACD comparison.

Can’t say for certain. The differences in presentation between the transports I’ve tried seem to be pretty much across the board; bass, mids, treble, image specificity, overall sound-stage etc.

George

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5 hours ago, beerandmusic said:

I thought i have heard for many years that hdmi was an inferior interface because of jitter and why no one uses hdmi in the "audiophile" world?

 

I don’t see how a “wire” can introduce jitter, anyway, I’m not sure that would matter in this case. Anybody know for sure?

George

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9 hours ago, beerandmusic said:

I thought i have heard for many years that hdmi was an inferior interface because of jitter and why no one uses hdmi in the "audiophile" world?

 

I don’t see how a “wire” can introduce jitter, anyway, I’m not sure that would matter in this case. Anybody know for sure?

George

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17 hours ago, fas42 said:

 

You should check out some of the newest digital speakers out there - remarkably good value for value. Currently, I'm using ridiculously cheap Edifier speakers, driven through the digital optical input from an equally cheap DVD player - and at the current state of tune, ticks most boxes. Biggest problems for this level of gear is that they are very sensitive to noise on the mains - if you go this route, all efforts to isolate the setup from crap coming over the power feed will be rewarded 🙂.

Irrelevant (as is usual for Frank)!

George

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27 minutes ago, LarryMagoo said:

Maybe we could start a club....I also have a Sony SCD-777ES that is faulty....Wish it could be repaired!   I do have a Oppo 105....and I've quit listening to Multichannel since I joined Roon...and miss the audio that is provides....since it sounds so good!  

I hear you. The SCD-777ES is so well built, sounds so good, and is so elegant, that it’s a crying shame to have to have to relegate it to a closet, throw it away, or sell it on EBay for parts.

George

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1 hour ago, jxo said:

Great thread, thanks.  Also have hundreds of SACDs and have been procrastinating on the ripping project.  My OPPO bluray died and was going to replace it with a Panasonic DP-UB820 (frequently compared to the Oppos).   The Panny has an audio only hdmi output (like many of the Sonys) but unlike the Sonys you may have tried it is not designated as an SACD player. 

 

Stupid question, does a blu ray player need to have SACD playback designation in order to be an SACD digital transport with these Chinese adapters??

I believe that it does. As I understand it, there is more to the SACD standard than just a DSD audio file.

George

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19 minutes ago, jxo said:

I have a couple of flimsy Sony BX510s for ripping and I can see why these may not be the most well made transport devices.   I assume bits are bits but I was asking whether using a bluray player for digital transport to a DAC would be different for any reason (as distinguished from a Sony player for ripping purposes).  I assume a solid blu ray player with a dedicated audio hdmi output would be unable to read an SACD (unless its a Sony).   Just checking.    Btw, those cheap Sonys regularly used for ripping are not feature designated as SACD players.

First of all, your player does not need to have a dedicated audio-only HDMI output connector to output DSD over HDMI but the Blu-ray player itself must support playback of SACD to either rip or play (through an outboard DAC) an SACD disc.

My experience is that those “cheap” Sony Blu-ray/SACD players don’t make very good sounding rips (stands to reason, they don’t sound very good as transports to play SACDs through outboard DACs via I2S, so why would a rip from these players sound any better?).

George

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2 hours ago, Rexp said:

What do your CD's sound like compared to SACD? 

You just asked the $64,000 question!
 

The answer is anything but simple. I have regular CDs that sound infinitely better than SACDs of the exact, same material, and I also have SACDs of older analog masters that make them sound like the best modern digital masters. It seems that how carefully a release is produced is just as important, or possibly even more important than the format. Same is true with LP vs CD!

But, given the best source material, the Pontus makes the best SACDs show the original promise of the format, and show that CDs can sound much better than they rightly should!

George

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On 1/20/2021 at 2:56 PM, jxo said:

Am interested in identifying new players that would serve well as an SACD digital transports for this type of setup.   Did you compare the Oppos with the cheap Sonys (I have several lined up for ripping and they are flimsy at best)?   Curious whether a new Sony ES would perform better.   I am not seeing too many new players with HDMI outputs and SACD capability other than the Sonys.

We’ve discussed this. Yes, I compared the Oppo 105 and 205 against several cheap Sony Blu-ray players with SACD playback. The Sonys aren’tverygood.

George

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On 1/26/2021 at 5:50 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Hi @gmgraves I just received the message via the Contact Us form.

 

To the attention of George Graves

 

In reference to your Audiophilestyle Web article -- "At Long Last! Listen to Your Physical SACDs Through an Outboard DAC" -- I wondered about the available setup options of the OPPO-UDP-205.

 

I took some screen shots of the options in question but could notdetermine a way to insert local images files (with no Web URLs) in this message.

 

Here are the options I wanted to bring to your attention:

  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • HDMI Audio Format
        • Auto
        • LPSM
        • Bitstream
        • Off
  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • SACD Output
        • Auto
        • PCM
        • DSD

 

My assumption from the above options screens that with the settingshown in bold (Bitstream+DSD) it should be possible to pass the SACD signal to an external DAC.

 

I must confess to ignorance as to which digital outputs these options are mapped to: HDMI, SPDIF or Toslink. This would be crucial for your task so it would need additional research and/or experimentation to resolve.

 

My apologies if you were already aware of these options and havefound they do not directly achieve what you need.

 

JWH

 

 

Note: Following is just for your general reference regarding SACD options

  • Setup Menu
    • Audio Output Setup
      • SACD Priority
        • Multi-Channel
        • Stereo
        • CD Mode

Those settings on the Oppo UDP- 205 are irrelevant at least as far as the Denefrips Pontus are concerned as the HDMI input port is I2S only. The default for the audio output settings on the Oppo is “Automatic”, so, when playing an SACD, the player selects the proper options for the Audio-Out only HDMI port (or at least that’s how it seems. I’m really no expert on the Oppo beyond what info is available in the unit’s manual). 
Some DACS might take the HDMI SACD output DIRECTLY. I know that the DACs in some A/V receivers will do this, but *I* know of no stand-alone DACs that do this (this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any). Also, the way I understand it, the convention is that the DSD output from any player that will support SACD is only available on HDMI; not USB, nor either coax or Toslink SPDIF.

George

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3 hours ago, hgaggioni said:

George,

I also have a very large collection of SACDs and over 3000 CDs. I tried the Sony's flagship Blu-ray player (UBP-X1100ES) - which again worked flawlessly- , but the sound was less detailed and open compared to the XA5400 (last flagship SACD player from Sony). The build of the CD mechanism is completely different with the XA5400 being solid and more elaborate that the UBP's. Hence, indeed the quality of the transport plays a huge role in the ultimate sound quality through this arrangement of HDMI-i2s into Denafrips Pontus. I can also imagine that stepping up to the Venus II or the Terminator Plus will enhance the quality even more...but we will be chasing the law of diminishing returns. 

Interesting is that I have found many well produced current CDs will be far superior than middle-of-the-road SACDs (especially early ones, circa mid-2000s). And that different is possibly far more noticeable than the increments provided by better DACs. Once again, thanks for your contribution!

Amen to that, brother. I have always maintained that the care taken in production is, with all else being equal, more important than format; high-rez or not. Case in point: I have two copies of Prokofiev’s “Lt. Kiji Suite” with  Fritz Reiner and the Chicago symphony, recorded in the mid-1950’s by RCA Victor. One is a Redbook “XRCD” from JVC, while the other is a BMG release of the same material on hybrid SACD (part of BMG’s “Living Stereo” SACD series that they released in the mid-2000s). The XRCD sounds so much better than either the Redbook layer or the SACD layer of the BMG release that it’s difficult to reconcile what one is hearing with the knowledge that they are exactly the same performance!

Now, of course, the XRCD retailed for around $40, and the BMG series for around $8 per title, but the BMG was SACD fer crissake! SACD is supposed to be high-resolution and much better than Redbook CD!
This is not the only example of a CD of a work that sounds better than either it’s SACD, DVD-A, Blu-Ray Audio or MQA stream of a particular work, but it is the one that always comes to my mind when the subject comes up. The same is true, sometimes when it comes to LP vs digital.

I have the Classics Records remastering of Stravinsky’s “Firebird”. The LP was mastered at 45 RPM, single-sided on 200 gram vinyl by Wilma Cozert Fine (the original Mercury Records mastering engineer, and the wife of the late C. Robert Fine, Mercury “Living Presence” chief recording engineer and head of Mercury’s classical division). In fact it was the last thing Wilma Cozert Fine did before she, herself, passed away. I also have the same performance on both CD (also mastered by Ms Fine) and SACD (don’t know who mastered the SACD release). Both the CD and the SACD sound very mediocre, but the LP is one of the best sounding commercial recording releases that this audiophile has ever heard! Dynamic, with thunderous bass, and silken highs; incredible sound stage and image specificity, this LP makes the digital versions sound like acoustic 78s by comparison! (OK, you caught me, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture!). 
All of this proves to me that the production process and the care taken (or not taken) is more important, ultimately, than the release format. Sure, High-res digital, whether LPCM, or SACD (DSD) (have the potential to be) better than Redbook CD, or analog. But unless best practices are followed from microphone to final product, the actual format can be irrelevant.

George

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